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City Museum hits attendance records, but will wait for 'Bob-scale' projects

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 27, 2011 - For children and their parents, the City Museum is a happy place, and they're flocking there in record numbers. But for many who work inside, a degree of sorrow hangs over the artistic playground of Bob Cassilly, who died suddenly three months ago.

"We're still trying to deal with everything; it's strange and sad," museum director Rick Erwin said in an interview. "It's just not easy to start back over."

Published reports two months after Cassilly's Sept. 26 death said that his widow Melissa Giovanna Cassilly had been locked out of the museum's business offices. Regarding that situation, Erwin would only say, in an email, that she now has access to the building and that the situation occurred as emotions ran high.

"Bob died unexpectedly, shocking all of us. As some time has passed, relations among business partners, employees, and family members are being settled. There have been a few bumps, some steep climbs, a dark tunnel or two, but no permanent barriers," Erwin said.

On the front doors of the City Museum remains a memorial to Cassilly, possibly for as long as stories about the prolific, off-beat artist continue to be told among those who work there.

Passing through those doors this holiday season is the largest number of visitors in five years, Erwin said. By the end of the year, the museum will have hosted more than 705,000 guests. Membership sales are double those of last year, and the museum's daily attendance record is now a record-breaking 7,400 guests.

Next year's plans for City Museum include finishing up crawl spaces in the cave area and elsewhere, along with some painting and cleanup. But even though Cassilly left actual blueprints for additional features at the museum, Erwin said it will be another year before they tackle any "Bob-scale" projects.

And in north St. Louis, Cassilly's crews continue to work on his ambitious Cementland project. According to Second Ward Alderman Dionne Flowers, the site is expected to open in 2012.

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.